We’re drowning in health information on all fronts with very little guidance on how to make sense of it. How can we go about finding clarity and seeing sensible patterns in a morass of data?
Larry Smarr, perhaps the world’s most-quantified man, chronicled his bodily input and output in minute detail for months. He used the resulting mountains of microbiotic data — and a supercomputer — to self-diagnose a gastrointestinal illness, much to the discomfort of his doctor, who told him, “that’s science, not medicine.” Still, Smarr may well be the patient of the future. Watch him tell his tale at TEDMED 2013.
TEDMED 2013 Delegates are being put through their physical and mental paces at this year’s event with a slate of extracurricular activities that explore the burgeoning “quantified self” movement.
According to the Pew Research Center, some 69% of U.S. adults track a health indicator like weight, diet, an exercise routine, or a symptom. Of those, one in five use technology to keep tabs on their health status, and 46% of trackers say that this changed their overall approach to maintaining their health or the health of someone for whom they provide care. At some point, personal data may be collected directly to an electronic health record. (Speaker Larry Smarr, who has been chronicling his bodily functions in minute detail, will talk on the topic tomorrow evening.)
A Challenge to “Walk Around the World”
TEDMED partner Fitbit gave every TEDMED delegate a Fitbit One Wireless Activity + Sleep tracker. Delegates will track their daily activities and sleep while attempting to collectively walk the distance around the Earth – 24,901.55 miles (40,075.16 kilometers). To help them along, TEDMED installed a special “On the Move” space at the Kennedy Center where attendees can watch a simulcast of the speakers while on a treadmill or doing yoga. Users will be able to download their data to the Fitbit web site to continue tracking post-event.
An Emotiv Brainscope that ID’s Personality Traits
Can headwear predict whether you are a nurturer, explorer, maker or visionary? For above-the-shoulder measurement fun, attendees donned a portable electroencephalography (EEG) headset from Emotiv that reveals executive and visual processing and sensory integration. The “Emotiv Brainscope,” sponsored by TEDMED corporate partner Xerox, then issues a personality report for users based on their reactions to a series of images – a photo of Einstein; a lone trekker in a desert.
For the first time at a live event, EEG technology will also be used to track TEDMED audience reactions to the speakers in terms of engagement, excitement and empathy. Twenty intrepid volunteers will have their brain waves measured during each session at the Opera House.
The Mental Dual
Attendees also put their mindfulness quotient to the test in a “mental dual” game
powered by the Emotiv EPOC device’s Cognitive Suite, which reads and interprets a user’s conscious thoughts and intent to control an avatar. Going literally head-to-head, opponents at TEDMED will try to memorize a mental pattern used to force an avatar square down a tunnel. Fascinating when it works, but it’s darned hard to keep it moving, particularly with the more than 50 colorful displays of innovative technology and ideas to distract at the TEDMED Hive. This scatterbrained blogger will not be making it to the focused mind leaderboard.